2017 BAMF Review in Limelight Magazine
REVIEW: BOWRAL AUTUMN MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Richard Gate on March 28, 2017
★★★★☆ Acacia Quartet and Sally Whitwell bear the bays at this year’s Festival.
Church of St Jude, Bowral
March 24 – 26
This year’s Bowral Autumn Music Festival comprised a total of eight concerts. The stars of the four concerts I attended, and probably of the entire festival, were the four members of the Acacia String Quartet who began matters with an excellent account of Haydn’s Quartet in G, Op. 77 No 1, displaying great musicality, a fine tone and a degree of unanimity in the slow movement that is unusual in string quartet playing. The same was true of their performance, together with David Griffiths, of Mozart’s Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, K581... read more from Limelight Magazine
2017 BAMF Overview by Elizabeth Dalton
The 2017 Bowral Autumn Music Festival was again a great success with a program that had appeal for young and old. The classics of Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms were featured alongside several works by contemporary Australian composers Ann Carr-Boyd, Ross Edwards, Nicholas Vines, Dan Walker, Martin Wesley-Smith and Sally Whitwell in a total of eight concerts over three days from 24-26 March.
Concert I featured the quartet-in-residence, Acacia Quartet and clarinettist, David Griffiths. The program started with one of the last string quartets of Joseph Haydn, the father of the genre – his String Quartet in G major, Op. 77, no. 1. Then we were treated to a contemplative work by Ross Edwards, Yanada. David Griffiths’ beautifully mellow tone did full justice to this soulful composition that depicts the serenity and mystery of the moon. Returning to the stage, Acacia Quartet joined David in the Mozart clarinet quintet, one of the best-loved works in the repertoire.
The audience was invited to a reception after the concert to celebrate the opening of the Festival with a glass of champagne. There followed the first “Rising Stars” concert in which two young performers, Peter Taurian and Kye Milne, performed solo and together on organ and trombone. The highlight of this concert was the world première of DubStop Drive by Nicholas Vines which had been especially composed for the two Sydney Grammar students, whose performance brought a sense of fun to a multi-layered fantastical composition.
Concert III on Friday night was entitled “Waltzes” and featured four singers (Jane Sheldon, Anna Fraser, Andrew Goodwin and David Greco) and two pianists (Philip Shovk and Siro Battaglin). The first half started with the French Six Chansons of Hindemith, followed by some Australian songs of Dan Walker, Martin Wesley-Smith and Percy Grainger. Next came some German lieder with three of the Six Duets, Op. 63 of Mendelssohn and the Vir Duette, Op. 78 of Schumann. These works were perfect examples of 19th century ‘hausmusik’ – chamber music that was intended to be performed and enjoyed in the privacy of one’s home. None more so than Brahms’ Liebeslieder, Op. 52, which was programmed for the second half of the concert. Both pianists and the four singers gave a heart-warming performance of this romantic song cycle which speaks of love in all its guises.
It was a crisp start on Saturday morning at the Mittagong Playhouse with the second “Rising Stars” concert. Cedar- Rose Newman (violin) and Joshua Han (piano) both displayed extraordinary talent with performances of music by Beethoven, Grieg , Liszt, Carr-Boyd and Vieuxtemps.
A quick dash back to St Jude’s then for the Organ Recital, which this year was given by Sydney City Organist, Robert Ampt. A most charismatic performer, he engaged the audience in a program of what he called “things you want to hear and things you should hear”. Some of his own compositions and arrangements were interspersed with Bach, Messiaen and Widor and he even had the audience on their feet to sing “Praise to the Lord” following, in the Lutheran tradition, an organ chorale prelude.
On Saturday afternoon the Festival program took a new direction with a family concert given by Taikoz in the St Jude’s auditorium. This Japanese drumming group, headed by Artistic Director Ian Cleworth, immersed its audience of young and old in a very exciting experience of rhythm and dance with a program that showcased their hypnotic energy and brilliant teamwork demanded of this Japanese art form.
Concert VII on Saturday evening was entitled “Romances”. The program opened with an Australian première of the String Quartet, no. 2 in C Major, Op. 9 by Gϋnter Raphael, a German composer whose musical career was eclipsed by the Nazi regime. Acacia Quartet has been invited by the Gϋnter Raphael Foundation in Germany to perform and record this and other works of Raphael in Berlin later this year. Written in the Romantic style, it was well programmed alongside Schumann’s Kinderszenen, Op. 15 and the Brahms Quintet in F minor, Op. 34. Philip Shovk gave a warm and intimate performance of the Schumann miniatures and then joined Acacia in a fine performance of the Brahms, an epic work of the chamber music repertoire.
The Festival Service on Sunday morning included Mozart’s “Dixit Dominus” from Vesperae solennes de confessore KV 339 and the Missa Brevis in B flat KV 275. Allan Beavis led the Festival Chorale with soloists, Melinda Richardson (soprano), David Allen (tenor), David Archer (baritone), Danielle Koek (violin), Maria Dunn (violin), Catherine Barnett (cello) and Kim Stewart (organ and continuo).
Concert VII on Sunday afternoon concluded the Festival with Acacia Quartet performing a lyrical work of Schubert – his string quartet no 10 in E flat, D. 87 thought to have been composed when the composer was just seventeen. It was followed by a delightful work by Australian composer, Sally Whitwell, which was written especially for Acacia. Titled Face to the Sun and written in memory of the composer’s grandmother, its four movements each depicted different Australian wild flowers, through music that was both nostalgic and evocative.
A significant feature of the Festival is the inclusion of some organ pieces, performed by Allan Beavis as a prelude to each concert. This year he concentrated on the organ sonatas of Mendelssohn, which are at the very heart of the organ repertoire, and very fitting to the ambience of the Festival venue.
The Bowral Autumn Music Festival celebrated 11 years this year with near capacity audiences. The programs featured several of our own Australian composers and it was wonderful to see nearly all of them in attendance. The success of the Festival may be attributed to the Festival Director, Allan Beavis, the Artistic Director, Myee Clohessy, and the Festival Administrator Siobhan Barrett-Lennard. Their combined vision, passion and hard work provided a Festival of quality chamber music in the Highlands for concert-goers of all ages.